A member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Douye Diri, said on Monday that the real reason the National Assembly changed the sequence of elections ahead of the 2019 polls was to stop other candidates from riding on the popularity of the President to win their own contests.
The Senate and the House, in their recent amendments to the Electoral Act 2010, changed the sequence of elections by making the presidential poll to come last.
Until now, the presidential and the National Assembly elections were first conducted, followed by others.
But in the re-ordered amendment to the law, the National Assembly elections will come first, followed by governorship and the presidential poll coming last.
Diri, who is from Bayelsa State, argued that the old order favoured unpopular candidates to get into power by simply identifying with the President or his political party.
He explained that the lawmakers felt that contestants should genuinely test their popularity by standing alone and not waiting in the wings to take advantage of the victory of an elected President.
However, independent findings by The PUNCH also showed that part of the reasons was that presidential candidates often thought that the electioneering was all about them.
It was learnt that lawmakers were unhappy that an elected President, in most cases, hardly fought for other contestants the moment he had won his own election.
Speaking further, Diri cited the case of President Muhammadu Buhari, whom he said people believed had integrity and would want to take advantage of it.
Dirii, who is a member of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, said, “The committee worked on the bill and we all voted on the bill in both chambers of the National Assembly.
“You will agree with me that there were a lot of those riding on the popularity of the President, including most of us who are members of the National Assembly.
“So, by this separation, some of them who are not popular, who were thinking that Buhari is a man of integrity and so when I go under Buhari I will win my election, problem will come for them.
“These are the people who are kicking against the sequence. Not only my colleagues. As we all know, there are even governors who believe that this thing (new sequence) will be a problem to them.
“If you are popular, why will you be bothered that the National Assembly election would not hold the same day with that of the President? Why are you bothered? You go on your own and do your election.
“So, I am really surprised when people say that there is an ulterior motive. I don’t see any ulterior motive. I believe that those who are saying this have some skeletons in their cupboards.”
Asked what would happen if the President refused to assent to the amendment, Diri said the reason for withholding the assent must be convincing enough.
“Both chambers have adopted it (amendment). And if both chambers have adopted it, the President must convince both chambers as to why he is not signing it.
“If he convinces both chambers, no problem. If we are not convinced by the reasons or if the reasons will not be in the interest of Nigeria, we would go the full hog.”
Diri also gave his backing to true federalism, particularly the power of states to have their own police and to allocate land for cattle ranches as against allowing cows to roam freely.